Chuck Henson presents new diversity and inclusion initiatives to Faculty Council

New initiatives include meetings with students to discuss important issues in the UM System as well as a lecture series on black voices in Missouri and the First Amendment.
Faculty Council members vote on a proposal in a meeting Jan. 21, 2016.

Chuck Henson, interim vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity, shared new initiatives for diversity, including open meetings with students, at Thursday’s Faculty Council meeting. The council also voted on and passed the resolution to examine the relationship between the UM System and MU.

Diversity and Inclusion Update

Henson presented to the council what his office is currently doing to be transparent and work with students, faculty and staff to make MU more inclusive.

Henson said there will be meetings beginning Feb. 17 aimed at providing transparency and showing what progress is being made for diversity and inclusion.

“All student leaders are invited to attend,” Henson said. “If you want to participate in the evolution, in the transformation and to see what the division is doing, then come.”

Additionally, there will be lectures given to help explain important issues and topics surrounding the UM System that students, faculty, staff and the community are invited to attend. Henson gave examples of potential topics, ranging from explaining the role of the Board of Curators to what shared governance is.

“We will move week to week from issue to issue on important topics we should all be on the same page about,” Henson said.

He said there are currently six sessions planned before spring break, with more to occur when school resumes and continuing into the next school year.

Additionally, Henson said, a lecture series has been developed titled #SayMyName. The series discusses black voices in Missouri throughout history. The inaugural monthly lecture was held Feb. 3 and the next will occur March 23.

Henson said a First Amendment lecture series and summit are in the works as well.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force

David Mitchell, chairman of the UM System’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force, discussed the task force’s purpose. It began Jan. 21 and is one of eight initiatives the Board of Curators created following protests from Concerned Student 1950 and former UM System President Tim Wolfe’s resignation in November.

The task force will be “assessing and then making recommendations regarding the current programs, policies and practices of the UM System including potential revisions in university collected rules,” according to the UM System website.

Mitchell said he was at first unsure about serving on the task force.

“I was reluctant to serve because I didn’t have faith in the leadership in the Board of Curators,” Mitchell said. “However … if we’re going through change, I want to be a part of that change.”

The task force will be conducting an audit of the system in order to gain a sense of understanding regarding issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Mitchell discussed two phases of the task force. The first phase involves appointing students, faculty and staff. This change has already taken place.

The second phase involves selecting more members from each campus. After attending learning sessions, to be held within the next few weeks, participants will be chosen. Mitchell said this will give a voice to people who might not have had a chance to talk in the past.

“This is about having emerging leaders,” Mitchell said. “This is to bring in other people under the umbrella and get voices who were formerly not at the table to be at the table.”

The task force meetings will rotate between the four campuses to ensure every campus has a chance to be included in the discussions.

Proposed Resolution

At the council’s Jan. 21 meeting, professors John Gahl and Art Jago presented a proposal to examine the relationship between the UM System and MU. During the meeting, council members discussed the pros and cons of passing the proposal.

In a later interview, Jago said that there is no better time than now to conduct an examination because of the unique situation of having both an interim MU chancellor and UM System president.

During the Thursday meeting, council members voted to pass the resolution. It will now go to the Intercampus Faculty Council to discuss among the four campuses and to the UM System Board of Curators to vote on.

Before passing the resolution, council members voted to amend some of the language of the proposal. The original proposal states that having both an interim MU chancellor and UM System president is an unprecedented occurrence for the UM System. This in untrue, Jago said, as the same instance occurred once before in 1996 after MU Chancellor Charles Kiesler was fired and UM System President George Russell resigned a month later. The amended language of the resolution was changed to an “unusual occurrence.”

The council also amended language regarding the presidential search. The original proposal included a sentence that stated the UM presidential search would be suspended until the examination, discussion and a decision took place. The new language changes this to a suggestion.

Additionally, the council voted to strike the third item of the resolution, “a possible consolidation of the offices of the UM President and MU Chancellor,” from the proposal, as some council members felt it sounded too cynical.

“My sense is that it will be made by multiple parties far more cynically and this concerns me,” professor Jeff Rouder said. “It deeply concerns me.”

Council Vice Chairwoman Nicole Monnier said some faculty at UM-Kansas City were unhappy with the proposal.

“They took it very cynically and their response was ‘You want to break up the system,’” Monnier said.

The council made it clear that the examination will not take place with a specific consequence in mind, but rather a look into whether the UM System is effective and whether it would be more efficient to have a system or not.

“We’re completely open to the idea that it’s very effective and we get a lot of value for our money,” professor André Ariew said. “It shouldn’t have to be pitched cynically.”

In a memo sent to council members before the meeting, Jago discussed arguments and counterarguments about the examination and wrote that there were many caveats and questions to think about before voting.

“However, there is one observation for which it is difficult to find a counterargument,” Jago wrote. “In 2012, a top-level MU administrator told me, ‘If the system is doing it, it is not academic. If it is academic, the system shouldn’t be doing it.’ These words rang true to me then and ring true to me today.”

Edited by Taylor Blatchford |

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